A few months ago, just walking his dog would have been too much for Robert Matthews. Tests showed he had a large, non-cancerous tumor pressing on his brain.
"I wasn't stable walking. My speech was slurred. I used to always have these migraines, and they were bad." Matthews said.
His doctor said he needed a craniotomy, which involves making a large incision to open the skull and going deep in the brain to remove the tumor, but then Cleveland Clinic surgeons told him about a new option.
"Essentially, we use the nose as a channel or a pathway to get up to the brain," said Dr. Raj Sindwani, otolaryngologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Two surgeons enter through the patient's nose and cut a tiny opening in the brain covering. They use special instruments to remove the lesion through the small hole. Instead of a cut from ear to ear, the internal incision is just two centimeters.
Surgeons don't have to disrupt the frontal lobes in the brain. That means less pain and a faster recovery, four to six weeks instead of three to six months.
"These surgeries are like a finely orchestrated dance. They require two surgeons to be operating, with four hands through the nose," said Dr. Violette Recinos, neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic.
Matthews hasn't had any symptoms since his surgery. Now, he can enjoy his pets without any pain.
Not everyone with a brain tumor is a candidate for the procedure. The patient's tumor has to be at the base of the skull. Although the surgery is less risky than a craniotomy, there is a chance patients could lose their sense of smell or experience a decreased sense of smell.